The Sheelagh Watts Story

Posted 15 Mar 2016

Sheelagh Watts is simply one of those individuals who possess the ability to give, keep giving and ask for nothing in return. She has been a great servant to Suffolk Tennis over many years and has worked tirelessly from her office in Ipswich, to ensure that Suffolk Tennis is continually moving forward. Elena Baltacha-Severino became very close friends with Sheelagh and with her husband Nino would often visit Sheelagh in her office to discuss Elena’s future role in the county team. Elena’s Foundation has presented Sheelagh with a plaque which is proudly on show in Sheelagh’s office, it celebrates the support and continual friendship that Sheelagh has shown to The Elena Baltacha Foundation. 

Picture: Sheelagh and Tip Flory with Justice, a player who EBAT discovered through the School Link Programme. She is coached by Chris Daines, is now a national player and will shortly be attending trials for Great Britain.

Sheelagh Watts

Nino Severino, Bally’s husband and coach said “Sheelagh is totally committed to Suffolk Tennis, I have watched her give a large part of her life to the cause, I regard her as one of my closest friends and have the utmost respect for her. She has honoured her late husband in the best way possible, continuing his love for our very special sport, through her tireless work around our region. I am very proud to say that Sheelagh is a very special friend of EBAT.”

We asked Sheelagh to send us her story, in her words, we hope you enjoy reading it, she is one of Suffolk’s unsung tennis heroes…

Sheelagh’s Story

My interest and love of tennis began at Primary School where my teacher taught me the rudiments of the game. This intensified when, as a teenager I met my future husband, who played most sports but had a special passion for tennis and was playing for his club and county.

Picture: Sheelagh presenting a trophy to Letanya who was representing EBAT at one of the tournaments Sheelagh runs.

Sheelagh Watts

His interest in tennis began at his boarding school where, as head-boy, he was chosen to be a ball-boy on Centre-Court at Wimbledon for two years. He also became the Robinson’s Poster Boy for a year! As a tennis coach he enjoyed years of coaching both youngsters and adults including wheelchair tennis.

We eventually married and had a son who was good at most sports but also chose tennis as his number one, representing the county at both junior and senior level and winning the Collegiate Championships whilst training as a teacher. He became a professional tennis coach and now is Head of ATP Media.

Picture: Sheelagh presenting a trophy to Jessica who was representing EBAT at one of the tournaments Sheelagh runs.

Sheelagh Watts

Meanwhile I became Secretary of SLTA (Suffolk Lawn Tennis Association) worked for several years for the LTA (Lawn Tennis Association) and latterly for Suffolk LTA. It was here that I first met Bally, one of the nicest, sweetest people I have ever had the pleasure to know. When she and Nino started their quest to form the Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis (EBAT) to ensure that every child in Ipswich would have the opportunity to enjoy our wonderful game.

Bally you are missed so very much.

I am motivated and inspired to do my best for tennis in Suffolk and having been involved in many changes over the years, I hope that my experience is of benefit to everyone.

Sheelagh Watts

by Louise Stephens